Complete OHS Strategies
Workplace Health, Safety (OHS) & Wellness Programs – The need for change!
Workplace wellness programs are putting ‘health’ back into occupational health and safety. Health and safety drivers have grown from a focus on reducing workers compensation costs. Employers who have achieved excellent safety records by minimising physical, chemical and ergonomic hazards and injury risks have used this as a platform to expand into wellness and prevention initiatives.
Pioneering research by Laura Punnett of the University of Massachusetts has suggested that a host of factors is related to musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace—ranging far beyond safety-oriented measures such as the mechanics of lifting, posture, etc, and encompassing such factors as socioeconomic status and lifestyle behaviors. When these multivariate factors are addressed together, the potential for overall health gains in employees is increased.
For example, the health and safety of its workforce has always been important to Rio Tinto. Wellness is seen as an extension of health and safety because the company recognises that a healthy workforce is a safer workforce. As such, Rio Tinto’s corporate wellness program complements its occupational health and safety measures. The program focuses on screening, assessing and managing a range of health risks and illnesses facing many of its employees, such as sedentary lifestyles, poor diet, stress,smoking, obesity and mental health.
For health and economic reasons, investing in employee health makes sound business sense. Workplace wellness initiatives deliver value on two fronts: they can decrease costs and improve productivity, and also improve health for all, supporting behavioural change in individuals, families and communities. A study conducted with almost 30,000 employees in 15 countries showed that 64% of employees who perceive the organization for which they work as an active promoter of health and wellness intend to stay at least five years with their companies (World Economic Forum, 2010c).